Thursday, February 28, 2013

All Things Austen: "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" and Austenland

Am I the last person who is completely Jane Austen crazy to miss this awesome web series, "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries"?  I think so.  If you haven't yet checked it out, you really should.  I'm pretty new to web series as a whole, but I love the short vlog (video blog) format.

You can catch "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" at:

Here's episode 1:

 During my "hiatus" from blogging, I had the opportunity to go view Austenland at the Sundance Film Festival.  I owe my friend at work a HUGE thank you and favor for asking me to go along to help chaperone.  It was so fun, and I really loved watching it with an auditorium full of teenagers.  They oohed and aahed at all the right places, which was hilarious.  There was one moment that was especially memorable when one of the actors mentioned people who are "obsessed" with Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice.  A number of students in front of us all turned around and looked at my friend (who named her daughter Austen--and is SO stinking cute) and me (with my Darcy mouse pad).  It was hilarious and we both started laughing.  I think they have caught on to our love of all things Jane Austen???

I'm happy to say that the movie has been picked up and should be out some time this summer.  I can't wait to see it again!  For those who have read the book, you can expect a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, humorous version of the story we love.  I found myself laughing more than anything and relaxing into a really good time.  Here's a link to the clip, if you haven't caught it yet:

In the end, I'm so glad that Jane Austen continues to live on.  Whether it's through the pure form or through adaptations and retellings, I'm all there.  I kind of wonder what is in the future for Jane Austen?  What a thought!

Thanks for humoring my Jane Austen fangirling.  Have you checked out either of these Austen releases?  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her."

Review:  I know.  Everyone has read it already, so what took me so long?!?  Although I find myself growing tired of dystopian reads at about the rate I've grown tired of superhero flicks (which is pretty quick), this book really grabbed me and wouldn't let me go.  Beatrice, or Tris--as she's called, is a character with some serious guts.  In a society where you are to choose the faction that you will a part of for the rest of your life, Tris realizes that she don't necessarily fall into one as easily as she's been led to believe.  Sadly, Tris is not safe to reveal herself or her struggles to fit into a faction, that is until she meets another boy named Six who has equally disturbing secrets he must keep.

I'm not necessarily an action reader, but the action in this novel really kept the novel constantly moving and helped develop the relationships in the story.  In other words, it's not just action for action sake, which is good in my opinion.  There are some seriously interesting details to this world that Veronica Roth created, including a foray into your "fears" through induced dream sequences that force you to face things that frighten you, such as ways to die.  This really caused me to think about what scared me the most (hello...spiders, drowning), which then made me relate to Tris's feelings and reactions in the story.  

Since I actually read this novel and then immediately taught it in my Popular Literature course, I'd be negligent if I didn't mention the relationship with Six.  My students absolutely went nuts over it, while this I somehow just saw as another friendship/crush that's in many other books.  To my teen students it was the ultimate!  I already enjoyed the novel, but their reaction made me take another look at the "relationship" side of the story and had to smile.  Listen, who doesn't need their perspective changed even just a little?  Yes.  They helped me see more in the story than I would have originally.

Overall, I have to say that I loved Divergent and would recommend it to any of my students or friends.  The action sequences were really gut-wrenching and leave more questions in your mind than they answer.  You would think that would be annoying, but I found it made me want to keep reading.  All I can say to that is that I'm so happy that the next book, Insurgent, is already out so I can get reading!  If you haven't yet read this one, please try it now!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the book.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews

Review:  A friend at work one day brought me this little book and said, "Here.  You should read this."  It looked like a children's book, so I was a little confused by her recommendation, "Seriously.  It's a great message and I think you'd like it!"  How do you say no, when it looks so short anyway?  I'm glad I listened.

What feels like what must have been an inspirational speech given somewhere, Andy Andrews retells the story of a decision made on a battlefield during the Civil War that seemed minute but could have effectively have changed the course of history.  The entire book basically demonstrates the importance of each person and how one act or deed can affect others around us in a million little ways. 

Although short, this really was a simple but powerful message.  I would happily pass it along and recommend it to anyone needing a pressing reminder of the impact we can have on those around us.  In a world where we sometimes wonder if we're really doing much more than helping our own families and friends, this book demonstrates how the good we do has a ripple effect into the lives of many more.  The book takes next to no time to read, but is a great and positive message.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Double Book Review: Liar's Guide to True Love and Unscripted

When I first started using Netgalley, I went a bit crazy.  At the time, I picked up two books that were unlimited on the time frame (thank goodness) and were supposed to be quick reads.  I grabbed them, but have since learned to be a bit more discerning on what I select and what I review.  Let's be honest here--I can't get to as many books as I think I can!  I'm embarrassed by the length of time it took me to read these two picks, but at least I've finally gotten to them.

Anyway, here are two books I picked up through Netgalley and wanted to do a quick highlight on.

Liar's Guide to True Love by Wendy Chen

Cassandra Hanley is a wedding planner, who seems to always be the "bridesmaid" and never the bride.  Things look up when she starts dating Nick, until she learns that he hates weddings.  What's a girl to do, but to lie and not let him in on her profession?  That's not all though.  Into this tangled web walks Kevin, her college sweetheart who got away once and knows her, but has a few minor flaws.

This is a relatively short novel that clips along through Cassandra's lying and manic wedding profession details.  As with other novels of this sort, you can't help but ask WHY does she keep insisting on lying.  You can see the writing on the way and feel that she just needs to tell the truth so she can pursue a better relationship with the new guy who seems to appreciate her more.  Yes, it all eventually comes out and she has to deal with either the new guy who she lied to, or the old guy, who knew her all along.  A cute story, although something you feel you might have read before.

Unscripted by Natalie Aaron 

Abby Edwards is a producer on a reality dating show.  Sadly, reality show jobs don't last long, so when she sees a film her ex made about their relationship, she has to deal with the emotional baggage of knowing he has moved on and is successful (at her expense) while she still struggles to keep a steady "gig".  If that's not enough, one of her bosses on the new reality show she's working on is a guy, Will Harper, whom she humiliated herself in front of in a previous job.

Admittedly, I'm not a reality dating show viewer anymore, but having watched them a lot back in college, I thought this was a fun premise.  The story actually didn't have as many scenes on set as I would have liked, and seemed to focus more on Abby's home life with her roommate/friend than on her job.  Of course, the tension with Will makes him a key feature in our minds, but I had a difficult time sensing the real build up in the chemistry between the two.  I think that with a bit more on set and with Will a bit sooner, I would have really caught the relationship.  As is, it's a cute story that I would love to see fleshed out a bit more.

FTC Disclosure:  These reviews were based on ebook copies of the novel provided by Netgalley.

Oscar Madness Pulls Me Back

It's been too long, and I'm feeling the mojo coming back again.  Honestly, as mentioned before, I've just been beyond burned out this school year and found myself hanging by a thread.  In January I got a student teacher, who took 1/2 of my classes.  Although I still find myself using every moment at work to grade, lesson plan, or deal with day to day stuff, having a student teacher has let me go home at night to rest and go to bed at a decent hour without stressing out over all I left undone.  In short, I'm doing better.

Sorry to vent, but how else do you explain a nearly two month absence?  You complain and then explain yourself.  I'm not 100%, but I'm better, and can say that I've been reading like a fiend!  What makes you feel better than reading a ton and sleeping a bit?  Not much, in my estimation.

Well, tomorrow night are the Oscars.  As most years, I've only seen about half of the Best Picture nominees, but I'm still pretty excited to watch.  This year I had the chance to catch:  Les Miserables, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, and Lincoln.  From the other categories, I've seen:  Anna Karenina, Brave, and Prometheus. It doesn't feel like much at all to me, but you still couldn't keep me away!  My apologies for those who follow me on Twitter, as I'm sure I'll be chattering away all evening.  I can't wait.

Okay.  Until I get back into the book-review swing of things, I'll see you around.  For now, I'll leave you with a couple of my favorites.  Where would I be this year without Les Miserables?

I also really liked Silver Linings Playbook.  I have to say that this scene where the lead actor, played by Bradley Cooper, flips out over the tragic ending of A Farewell to Arms had me laughing a little too loudly in the theater.  I might be an English teacher who is supposed to love classics, but who hasn't felt this way about a book a time or two?


Until after the Oscars, I'll be hoping for the best for all of my favorites this year!